Can Anyone Help with the Words to a Yiddish or Russian Finger Game?

Ruth Cooper wrote to us asking for help with a Yiddish or Russian rhyme that’s a finger game.  Here’s her email:

The finger game I am trying to track down has motions that go with it.

The words (from close to 80 years ago) were something like:

Pippa kasa varele,

nafshe studge

???  hetimedalia

It’s probably either Russian or Yiddish.  I once asked someone Russian, who had no idea (but also did not recognize the finger motions).  I’m sure I’m mis-remembering the exact pronunciation.

If anyone can help Ruth, please comment below.

Thanks in advance!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Sunday, April 10th, 2016 at 5:42 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Finger Plays, Israel, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Questions, Russia, Russian, Yiddish. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with the Words to a Yiddish or Russian Finger Game?”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Ruth wrote:

    Success, I think! You posted “Looking for a Russian Child’s Finger Play” on May 19, 2008. A number of people responded, over several years. Someone named Irina gave the text, including “kashku varila,” which is very likely what I remember hearing as “kasa varela.” Others included “etomu dala” and “tema dallah,” which very likely is what I recall as “hetemedalia.” As for the “pippa” beginning, someone else says it starts with “pripatchik.” I am now 80 years old, and I heard my grandmother doing it with my brother in 1949, and we know (from correspondence with relatives) that by then her Russian was heavily modified by a lifetime in the United States. Given her pronunciation and my memory, I’m certain that this is the answer. It’s gratifying to know that I did not simply spout nonsense syllables to my own grandchildren. Thank you for providing a forum for topics like this. Ruth Cooper

  2. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for writing Ruth! We have that rhyme here too with a recording.

  3. marsha weiss Says:

    My grandmother did this and I remember it vividly. She would open my hand and sort of “spi(not really) in my palm and make circles and say (please excuse spelling) saruka vanishka pripistik tzanavila………..hetemeudela,(touching each finger) and the last finger was the pinky……….melenka munishka and then say tutpiet tutkalovichk as she tickled…………….it is a wonderful memory of my beloved grandmother.

  4. Fran Rodgers Kohn Says:

    My Russian grandmother did the same actions but i remember these words and these are the words I sang to my children and now to my grandchildren

    Pipa kasa
    Atrapechik tanavilla
    Et a mudella
    Et a mudella
    Koochie koochie koo!

    So excited to share this memory with others!

  5. charlotte yudin Says:

    My mother used to sing this to us. She was from Lithuania.
    The words I remember are these:

    Saroka varona
    kashka varila (as she made circles in my palm)
    Temudala (4 times, touching each finger on that hand starting with the thumb)
    Temu ni destala (touching the pinky)
    Kili, kili, kili……(as she tickled my arm from the pinky all the way up my arm to my armpit)

    It was something about a bird and porridge, I think. The circles at the beginning were Mommy bird stirring the porridge. There was none left for the last bird (pinky)….

  6. Mel Greenblatt Says:

    Back in the mid 1930’s my mother always played this game with my little sister. Holding her hand and touching one finger at a time she would say the following five words:

    “Sa-rok-a, Ve-ron-a, Mama-kashka, Na–politzi, Pusta-dilla”.

    She’d then repeat pustadilla, pustadilla, pustadilla, pustadilla four times and tickling my sisters belly and ran her finger up under her chin saying, (with a rising inflection): Zhe, zhe, zhe, zhe, poy, poy poy.

    My mother brought this game to America from the town of Biala Podlaska in Poland. I’ve continue to play it with my children and grandchildren.

  7. Lisa Says:

    That’s wonderful Mel! Would you like to record it for us? :)

  8. Anette Lynch Says:

    My father used to take my hand and make a little circle reciting:
    Atoto yangale cochinkinteh papale,
    Timidala timidala timidala timidala timidala..on each finger… followed by tickling me
    That was in São Paulo, Brazil, in the 1960’s, my father was Jewish Russian, and that was the version in Yiddish, supposedly, how I personally remember it, I am now in my 50’s.
    This made my day!!!

  9. Henny Katz Says:

    Ekkitah mekkitah tsookitah Aaahhhh…

    Ahble fahble doomble Daaahhhhh…

    Elss pelss pahla poosss!!

    Poosss dah Razdah NAAAHHH!!!

    Start with gently holding baby’s thumb between adult Pointer finger and thumb. Then gently take baby’s second finger etc. By the time you recite the riddle to NAAAHHH!!! You are circling baby’s palm. Or tickling baby’s belly. Game can be played with each hand and each foot.

    Smiles and giggles for both baby and adult.

    My dad was born in 1903. A holocaust survivor. With tzooris galore, he enjoyed entertaining me with this riddle. I loved it so much and remembered and passed it on to my son. My dad spoke six languages, so I’m not sure if this riddle finger game is Yiddish, Russian, Polish or ??

    From post war Europe to New England…. I taught my son (born 1988) the riddle and we had fun. Now I am visiting his son (born 2021) and the cycle of inter generational fun and laughter continues here in Medellin Colombia

  10. Sandra Says:

    My Russian Jewish grandfather used to play a tickling type of game – asking whether or not something flies… Eg does a boat fly. If you got a right or wrong answer, you would get poked or tickled “peesen’ or “roobles” or “taglet mit fasoilyes.”
    Any translation or familiarity?

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